In the forum at Saddleback with pastor Rick Warren the other day, McCain and Obama were both asked a number of questions about their views on policy, values, and the relationship of faith to politics.
At some point, as might have been expected, the topic of abortion came up. Obama and McCain were asked when they thought a baby got human rights: McCain answered, straightforwardly, "At conception", and Obama answered "whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity … is above my pay grade."
Above his pay grade. Above his pay grade??
What the fuck is that even supposed to mean?
Let's leave aside the fact that he was asked a legal question, not a theological or biological one. Let's leave aside that the biological and theological case for regarding life as beginning very early on in pregnancy (I'd say at implantation, myself) is strong. Let's leave aside that Obama's support of "Roe" only makes sense if you assume that life begins no earlier than the beginning of the third trimester, and his support for partial-birth abortion means that he thinks it begins no earlier than birth. What is this BS about pay grades? As the President of the United States you don't get to say that a damn thing is beyond your pay grade. Has Obama ever heard of that famous sign on the president's desk, "The Buck Stops Here?"
Of course there are lots of things the president doesn't know. I don't hold it against Obama that he doesn't know when life begins. But he is going to be called upon to make policy in that regard if he is elected, and therefore it's incumbent upon him to read, to reflect, and to surround himself with people he trusts who do have opinions on that subject. He can't get away with simply washing his hands of the whole matter. Especially not by doing it in such a flippant and frankly insulting manner.
Frankly this makes me think either Obama is a singularly unreflective person, or else he's refused to think about the topic because he doesn't like where logic might lead him (i.e. into a point of view incompatible with Roe v. Wade). As an educated person he can't not have an opinion about the biology. As a father he can't not have an opinion about the moral issues. As a Christian he can't not have an opinion about the theology, and as a lawyer he can't not have an opinion about the bloody legal question he was asked!
McCain did his bit of passing the buck too, blithering on about the "failure" of his first marriage, as if it was an earthquake or something. So have we all. But not about a matter of policy, and about one of the critical moral and political issues of our time, and not in such a cutesy and flippant manner. If Obama loses this election, which seems increasingly likely, then I suspect this will have played a critical part (can you imagine the "Pay Grade" ads that will come out of this? Unlike John Kerry's 'I voted for the 87 billion' this isn't a misquote nor out of context). Certainly Mr. Obama certainly made it a good bit more likely that I'm going to vote for Nader, or McKinney, or write in some random pro-life Democrat, in the fall.